Not Every Recipe is A Winner – Common Sense Philosophies

Grilled Shrimp on a Baby Spinach Salad

Not every recipe is a winner. If you’re new to cooking, I think it’s important for you to know this. Now, I admit I do have an uncanny luck with liking most things that I make. My husband was shocked one day when they liked a dish and I refused to eat it because I didn’t like the flavor. It’s rare, but I promise I don’t always like everything I come up with…but my biggest message is…That’s okay!!!

One reason I like doing review blogs on recipes by other bloggers is because I want you guys to know these recipes are accomplish-able. I like to show you guys which recipes I’ve tried. Now…I think my first review was my only negative one and I immediately decided that I did not want to do another negative review. We all have different opinions…We all have our own food issues. For instance…Since going paleo for well over a year now I am not fond of most gluten free bread like products. I have given up on finding a pancake that I like. It’s just a texture issue for me. However, there are several good recipes out there that many people like. My goal is never to discourage anyone from at least trying a recipe.

When you’re cooking you have to be reasonable with your expectations. Not every recipe is going to be right for you. There may even be ingredients that you are just not ready to try. I, frankly, love to try anything and everything. I learned the hard way that I’m not a fan of short ribs. The flavor is just not something I care for. I’ve tried making up my own recipe. I’ve tried other recipes. I’m just not a fan…Again…That’s okay!

The picture above is actually shrimp sauteed in butter, lemon, and pepper. The shrimp turned out really soft and the butter flavor over powered the shrimp. It just didn’t taste good. I was not a fan of the texture either. Grilled shrimp would be a much choice for this salad in hind sight.

Things I’ve learned when choosing and trying recipes:

  • Go for it! Don’t be afraid to try it.
  • Modify when you know what you like. If you know you prefer basil over thyme…Do it! Try it!
  • Recipes are not written in stone. Experiment. Use the recipe as a guideline when you’re comfortable enough to experiment.
  • Keep time in mind. Do you really want to try to master bouef bourguignon on a Wednesday night?
  • Don’t be afraid to make your own recipe! (Have you seen the tab that says “Stuff I Make Up”?)
  • Shop local and in season as much as you can for inspiration.
  • Stay inspired and watch others cook, such as cooking shows, or on YouTube.

To end this Common Sense Philosophies post, I want to remind you my dear friends, just because the recipe isn’t a winner, doesn’t mean you’re a loser. You are still winning with experience points. Every meal is a lesson and you get a chance three times a day to try again, and learn more. I told my husband the other day, there’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t want to learn. The day I stop learning is the day I’m ready to move on to the next life to learn something new there.

Keep on cooking friends and come back next time. I have several recipes and a review coming up that I am so very excited to share with you. I’ll be reviewing He Won’t Know It’s Paleo’s Red Wine Pasta Sauce…and I have figured out my AIP Bouef Bourguignon. Thank you guys for your continued support. It is so greatly appreciated.

-Ami M. Lee, Experimenter, Mad Hatter Chef, The Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philsophies – Food Religion

The Best People, Julia Child

Oh yes… One of my favorite quotes by Julia.

One thing you might not know about me, is that I am a seeker of knowledge. I just love understanding things and people. I AM that weirdo who can talk religion, politics, food, Team Edward or Team Jacob (Edward…in case anyone was wondering…) and basically anything and everything. Even if I don’t agree, or have the same beliefs, I just love to know how people tick. It ignites that child like curiosity within me when I meet someone or something new. Same thing goes for “food religion.”

Now…You may be like…What in the world are you talking about?! I’ve come to this interesting conclusion lately that the way you eat is so very similar to religion. You have a set way of doing things and you put your whole heart into it. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo, or just Standard American Diet but using mostly organic foods. You have your reasons, and they’re usually always good reasons to eat better, whole foods, and support local farmers. There is a lot of common ground! However, it seems like more and more these days, people get stuck in the Dogma of Food Religion and forget that we’re all just eating… And let me quote her again… People who love to eat are the best people.

There are some extreme diets out there! I’ve heard of everything from a completely meat diet to a completely raw plant based (vegan) diet. There’s the Standard American Diet, Paleo, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, Wahl’s Protocol, Low-Histamine… The list goes on and on and on… But, when did we start saying that MY DIET is the ONLY RIGHT kind of diet for a person to have?

Even though I’m paleo…This is something I’ve seen in our large paleo group. If someone mentions being able to eat something not typically described as “paleo” then people get all bent out of shape. We even have hashtags for #TeamWhiteRice! I see things like, grains are evil! Soy is poison. Dairy is the devil. And while….That may make sense for that person… Is there a one size fits all human diet?

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the vegans lately. It’s just something I find interesting, and I love that more people are advocating against animal suffering. But, even in the vegan community…They fight and bicker about who is the most vegan… Who does the most hashtags to get out the vegan message. Vegans are truly passionate to deny the primal instinct within to go completely without eating meat. I admit, I eat vegan meals on occasion. Especially vegan treats. If I’m going on that rare occasional treat, I would rather use whole, raw foods than to have to bake, and have a million weird ingredients… (Doesn’t help…Paleo baking is hard.)

Then we have our friends (and family) who are Standard American Diet. I mentioned to one family member who was looking at the possibility of having cancer that they have seen great things with a vegan diet and cancer patients… Needless to say…This was my daddy and love him as I do he replied, “I’ll die with a steak in one hand, and a beer in the other.” I’m sure some people just fell over…But that’s my dad. A lot of us probably know these folks. Heck, some of you might be reading my blog like…Yep..She’s talking about me. What do I have to say about this? Well. You can’t make choices for these people. They’ve eaten this way their whole lives and think there’s nothing wrong with it. Does it annoy the heck out of me when people complain that my kids are starved because they don’t get treats or can’t have soda? Oh you bet…This momma bear is happy to inform any and all that I am trying to give them good healthy options. But, again I come to the question… Is this diet right for everyone?

The answer to these questions are……NO! No way! Never! Nope.

No one diet will ever work for all 7 billion of us. We all have different backgrounds and genetics. We may have different life experiences and handle food differently. I often hear stories about people like me who are severely allergic to food in the U.S.A. going away on holiday to another country and being fine! Why are there skinny people who eat junk food all day? Why are there people who are still fat on paleo? I think it is simply because…

We are all unique.

I think the most important thing that I would like anyone who reads this to take from it is….

(Say it with me.) People who love to eat, are the best people. So yes, that means you. If you love food, you’re awesome in my book. No matter what you believe is best. If you’re vegan and you feel great and are full of life and energy and can help the planet and reduce animal suffering…You have my kudos and encouragement. If you’re a single mom just trying to make it and all you can afford is spaghetti noodles, pasta sauce, and a pound of ground beef…You still have all my kudos! If you’re some form of Paleo like me and you are all about nutrient density, snout to tail, and buying local…You have just as many kudos as the rest!


Because we’re all awesome people who love food. We can learn awesome things from each other regardless of our diet. I definitely don’t let paleo stop me from figuring out how to make or recreate amazing dishes from all sorts of amazing people. And, I am committing to be able to serve not just my paleo friend, but everyone! So don’t freak out if you see a Standard American Diet with pasta in it, my paleo friend… Don’t freak out my Standard American Diet friends if you see a vegan recipe…

So whether you’re passing the spaghetti…the lentil…or the bacon….I hope we can all share a dish together and just enjoy food. I hope you’ll come back next time and see what opinions this hippie momma, Common Sense Cook can lay down next.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philosophies – Cart Judging

Kiddos Grocery Shopping

You’re guilty of it. I’m guilt of it. Let’s face it… For some reason it’s hard to resist looking into other people’s baskets and seeing their junk food filled carts and feeling like you are better than them because you have more vegetables than they have junk food. I get it. It’s a small self created sense of validation that you have made some good choices with your life. I get it. I’ve been there.

But, in the last six months or so I’ve made a commitment to stop cart judging others and I hope I can convince you to stop as well.

Not many of us in life have been blessed enough to lead a healthy life style with an abundance of healthy food, since day 1. More than likely, just like me, you’ve had your own cart full of processed food, sodas, and bread. Even though you may be, organic, vegan, paleo or whatever… You probably made some poor choices as to what to put in your cart a while back too. I remember all too well….

Next, I want you to understand that I am so proud of you for making a good lifestyle choice, no matter which one you choose. Good for you and your cart. You made good choices for you. But, no matter how good you are at making decisions for yourself, you can’t hold everyone’s hand through Wal-Mart and show them the ways of the force. You make decisions for you. That other person has to make decisions for them. They may not be at that point in life. They may never be. They definitely won’t if I’m over here yanking “All Natural” Cheetohs out of their shopping cart and throwing in coconut chips. They’re going to roll their eyes when I rant in the middle of the isle about guar gum in the coconut milk (sometimes the thoughts don’t stay in my head).

Also, what you’re doing is negative. Sorry to be so blunt, but it is. I think a crucial part to a healthy lifestyle, whether you’re doing it for weight loss or to heal, is creating a healthy, positive environment that is less stressful. Have you ever been really upset and felt how draining it is? Is it really worth it to drain your good energy (some of us that get what little precious energy our bodies will produce) with what someone else is doing? You’re not only sending a negative energy to your fellow shopper/neighbor but you’re giving yourself a dose of that negativity too. It’s not helping you or them. And that was my key break through! I am not helping them one little bit by judging what they’re putting in their cart.

Will opportunities come up where you can discuss this with those people? Sure! I’ve had it happen and it’s fun. I am AIP/Paleo and when people look at me crazy, I just break it down to, I don’t eat processed food and try to stick to anything without a package. I talk about how it’s helped me have more energy, cleared my skin, and helped my mental health as well. I’m still working on that scale, but I think most people understand that the weight struggle is real!

So what can you do to send a little kindness and compassion to our friends and neighbors who may have some really unhealthy foods in their cart, and you just want to jump up and down with neon signs saying, “Eat real food! Burn that nasty junk! It’s killing you!” (Please….don’t do that friends…It’s the point of my message today.)?

If you can’t help but look, try to look for something positive. Even just a bundle of bananas! And send them a mental note. Good for you and those 6 bananas! If there really isn’t anything good just say a little positive affirmation or prayer for them. You’re not there yet, but I’m routing for you to get there some day! Eventually, I know I was able to just quit looking all together. I started looking up at my friends and neighbors and I could see their smiles. (We’re awful friendly down here in the south.)

I want to end by encouraging you not to feel bad about judging others. It’s what we’re used to doing. We judge things based on our sense all of the time and it’s hard to decide when it is and isn’t appropriate because we’re always doing it. I’m guilty too! I just had to learn to redirect my thoughts so that I could do something silently positive for them (while hoping some day I can really do something for them) and I get something positive out of it by keeping a positive attitude about others.

Try this out the next time you’re at the store. I hope you’ll see that it’ll be a much more pleasant experience and eventually you’ll get to see those people are wonderful, normal people. They’re just not on the same road as you, and it’s perfectly all right to wave and say, “Howdy neighbor.”

So do us all a favor, yourself included. Stop judging what is in everyone’s carts. Stay positive for you and them. We all started this journey at different times and with different obstacles. A little kindness and compassion can go a long way.

Commmon Sense Philosophies – Eating out with Food Restrictions

As many of you may have noticed….a lot of my recipes are Paleo and now AIP (AutoImmune Protocol). I know that not everyone is able to stay home, and cook every single meal. Sometimes we get sick, or just in general want a break from cooking all of the time. With AIP, it is impossible to do fast food (if you have any successful restaurants and meals for fast food, please do all of our friends a favor and leave us a comment. <3). Restaurants have a little more help, but you’re putting your trust in a person’s hands that you will probably not even see. This can be stressful! But, I want to tell you about my recent experience at the Chili’s in Conway, AR.

What?! Chili’s?! You mean….Nightshade allergy hell?! Stick with my guys.

1. Keep Calm and Carry On

We were there with my Mom and my Cousin Lisa. They had come down for a visit and that’s what we do in my family. We eat and visit and enjoy being around each other. This is what you need to “worry” about. Talk, stay calm, and have fun! Remember, you’re here to enjoy yourself. I truly believe, if you stay calm, you’ll be more likely to make great decisions and keep your health goals in mind, while enjoying your time eating out.

2. Take your Time and Seek out All of your Options

Look over the menu. Consider your budget. Consider what may be a little easier your first time out. When I went to Chili’s I ordered a burger, plain with bacon, asparagus and a side of avocado. It may seem weird to your family, and your waiter, but be confident. Know that this is what will fuel your body, and keep you healthy.

3. Ordering

I waited till last and let everyone else order first. My order was long, wordy, and complicated. The burger I originally ordered would’ve been:


  • Bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Sauce
  • Seasoning
  • Fries

I think after this experience, this is my advice. Don’t concentrate so much on No’s. Let them know you have a lot of food allergies. Smile and give the waiter/waitress some confidence. They want to do a good job and get you what you need. Give the original name of what you’re looking at. Tell them what to take off. And then summarize with, “So basically, all I want is a burger patty, bacon, asparagus, and a side of avocado.”

4. Check that your Order is Correct as soon as it Arrives.

Now…No. We can’t test to see what spices, if they touched gluten, or anything like that. But, in general, check to see that they brought everything. Most servers will ask, “Does everything look right?” Make sure to tell them right then so they can try to help you as fast as possible. Be forgiving if they do mess up. You did have a pretty high maintenance order. I can’t brag enough about the server we had. He got my order right along with a total of 7 orders! For 4 adults total and 3 kids who all ordered different things except for two kiddos. Great job to the server for getting the order to the kitchen right, and just as big kudos going to the kitchen staff for getting it out right. Make sure, if they get it right, please make sure to smile at them, make eye contact and thank them! But, keep in mind…You may not always get the pro server. Sometimes you get the newbie that may mess up. You might be a great learning experience for them, so make it a good one so that even if they don’t do the greatest for you, they may be able to even better aid the next person with food restrictions.

5. Make sure to let Managers know that they were Able to Help you Well!

Of course…if something goes wrong. You want to let managers know and more than likely you surely will. But, we often forget to tell them when their staff does something really awesome. Now…being a blogger…I’m going to find a way to send this link to the manager so they can see what a great job they’re doing. Dealing with people who have food sensitivities is stressful. If they get something wrong, they could make someone sick. They know this. I waited a week before writing this because I wanted to make sure I had no reaction, whatsoever. I did not have any reaction and I am AIP, so my body is insanely sensitive right now to many things. If you’re reading this Manager of Conway, AR Chili’s…I hope you know, your staff really impressed me. I don’t remember the name of our server. It was Saturday, January 17th. We were seated by the windows on the right side of the restaurant (from the coming in the door’s perspective). The gentleman who served us, I believe was blonde. Very kind. I would come back to that restaurant just to sit in his section…if I remembered his name!

So for this AIP, Common Sense Cook….it only seems Common Sense to give thanks where it is due, and pass a long this great experience to you guys. Have you had a good experience with any food restriction at a restaurant? Leave a comment below!

I hope you enjoyed this “episode” of Common Sense Philosophies. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for Manic Monday where I try to share a recipe that is super fast, or super easy…and always super yummy.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philosophies – Find Inspiration

The Best People, Julia Child

When you’re starting your cooking journey, whether you are going to culinary school or a young kid learning how to fend for yourself, you need inspiration. I encourage you to start with one televised chef. Some of my favorites are Gordon Ramsay, Emeril Lagasse, Lydia Bastianich, and of course, the mother of all cooking inspiration, Julia Child. You can find many of these wonderful people on YouTube. Go watch and study them. Get lost for hours in their personality and passion.

The reason I started cooking was because I wanted to cook healthier food. I started with organic food after researching conventional vs. organic for a college research paper. I fell in love with watching shows on cooking. I watched Ming Tsai and Lydia Bastianich on the create network. I had a friend that was a trained cook. I often picked his brain on technique and quality of ingredients.

Since coming home in August my cooking has been my salvation and therapy. Not being able to cook for four months was down right torture. You could say I’m probably compensating for lost time. But, I have discovered the deepest love for Julia Child. Even though she isn’t gluten free or paleo like my family, the principles of using quality ingredients and cooking at home are timeless wisdom that anyone can adhere to.

You may pick up a new, interesting vegetable at the farmer’s market. I did this a while back with butternut squash. Trust me…now I’ve found excuses to buy it! Or, take a cue from your family. Look at your successes and failures. Never give up on a recipe. Don’t be afraid to take an idea and run with it. Last night I took the idea from the Korean Supper Chicken and used it to make meatballs. My husband tried it and loved them! I nearly cried, I was so happy that he liked them and he suggested some rice (which isn’t paleo, but okay), and some ginger dressing.

So this Common Sense cook takes inspiration from many places, but most of all I use a little common sense…who knew, right? I learn many of my techniques from watching those who are far more experienced than I am.

Go out there and get excited, get inspired and know that you are doing something amazing for your family. You can always come back here or on the Facebook page ( and I’ll be there to cheer you on.

I’m sending you inspiration and Common Sense Philosophies from my kitchen to yours. I can’t wait to write to you guys again. Peace, Love, and Happy Cooking, and Bon Appetit.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook

My Quote

Common Sense Philsophies: Getting Started Cooking

Some things come to my attention that I stop for a second, tilt my head sideways, and wonder how in the world does so and so not know “this.” Thankfully, I’m old enough to know that not everyone has the same interests, or life experiences. I love to talk about cooking and cooking has always been a part of my life. I haven’t always prepared supper, but I remember watching my Aunt Linda peeling tomatoes and other veggies on her kitchen bar while I sat across from her and watched. Kiddos need entertaining? Pull out some veggies folks.

It is probably safe to assume, that if you found this blog you were probably looking for recipes, tips or tricks, or advice on cooking. Well…I may not be the most experienced, but this is a great passion of mine and I spend plenty of time reading, researching, experimenting, and of course cooking. So, here we go. My philosophies on cooking. I will probably break this up in random posts. I don’t want to spam your inbox’s every day, but I may make these monthly or weekend posts.

Getting Started. In my head I hear a cheesy 50s announcer saying, “So you want to learn to cook?”

Now, I’ll leave out paleo philosophies till a later post…That’s a whole different can of worms. Let’s just start with fresh, home cooking from scratch. There is nothing better than meals made at home and I read earlier today that someone says cooking is the most dangerous thing we can do to the food industry as it is. In truth, this is so true. When you buy from the store, buy organic, buy from local farmers and growers, you are putting your dollar towards products that matter to you. With local, you are more likely putting those dollars into people who actually care about what you are feeding your family.

You’ve got your groceries selected, recipes ready, and you’re ready to cook. What’s first? Cleaning. Yes. Cleaning.

Counter and Kiddos Within Eye Sight

Start by making sure everything you need is clean and that your counter is organized. I love my island and the great deal of space that I have. I also have my kiddos occupied, in sight, so that I can keep an eye on them while cooking.

Counter Top Setup

Some of you may have noticed, I have gotten into Pinterest. ( I use my laptop to refer to recipes. I have my knives, paper towels, seasonings, utensils, measuring cups, garbage bowl, food processor, and my trusty glass bake dish. This night I was making Pesto Prosciutto Chicken Roulad from Against All Grain. (Review to Come Soon.)

This is something I have been trying to focus on lately, knowing that I want to one day go into the food industry. The standards of cleanliness are crucial to a healthy kitchen. It is also a great benefit to gather your ingredients so you don’t have to walk back and forth to the fridge, pantry, or cabinet. The garbage bowl was my first step in this direction. It’s so handy to peel an onion, or other veggies and toss the trimmings in the bowl instead of moving or running back and forth to the trash can.

As I cook, I try to put things up as I’m done. I throw dishes I’m done with in the sink or rinse them . If you’re a busy mom like me, it’s a crucial step to clean as you go.

Keeping the Kiddos Occupied

Another thing to consider is rules for your children and your kitchen .I am lucky to have an island. An easy, recognizable barrier where they can identify the line where they should not pass. (Any one else picture Gandalf in their kitchen?) They must ask politely, “May I pass the island?” This is usually only allowed for them to take their bowls, cups, and plates to the kitchen. Mark, my youngest, is allowed passed when he is helping with loading and unloading the dishwasher. When I am cooking, and usually zoned out, enjoying not worrying about much of anything because cooking is my therapy, I try to make sure the kiddos are occupied. Today, I let them sit at the kitchen table to enjoy some coloring. We sang ABC’s and discussed what letters and numbers looked like what. If I ever have something interesting, I’ll let them smell or taste. If I have something they can mix, I usually give them turns. Nothing brightens my heart like one (or all) of my kiddos sayings, “ooo, Mommy, that smells good!”

So there you go. A beginning to my Common Sense Philosophies. I love that my husband helped me decide on the name of this series. I hope you enjoy. If you ever have any questions, feel free to ask! It’s about my most favorite subject to talk about, and I love discussing and hearing feedback and incite into others opinions. It’s what’s made me the Common Sense Cook that I am today.

I’m sending warm dishes and happy cooking from my kitchen to yours.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook